It was just one shot, but for Dustin Thomas it was a big one.
When the Colorado freshman nailed a 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to play on Wednesday against Washington State, it gave the Buffs a 17-point lead. More important, it snapped a long streak of misses for Thomas.
Before that bucket, he had missed 14 3-pointers in a row, dating back to Nov. 16 against Jackson State.
"It had been a long time," Thomas said. "It definitely helped, getting over that hump and making that one."
CU head coach Tad Boyle has always raved about Thomas' talent and believes the 6-foot-7 forward is on the verge of breaking out. Thomas feels the same way, thanks in part to that shot.
"I think I have a streak coming," he said with a smile. "My all-around game is coming together right now."
Boyle believes the shots will eventually fall and, in the meantime, Thomas continues to progress as a defender.
"The reason I know Dustin is going to be successful is because of the way he comes to practice every day and how his effort isn't affected by his lack of success on the offensive end," Boyle said. "Recently he's competed and he's battled and he's gotten better defensively. He's made a lot of strides."
Boyle said that Thomas has gone through the normal progression that freshmen go through when they lose a little confidence, but then regain it later on. Thomas appears to be regaining some of that confidence.
"I feel better out there. I feel more comfortable," he said.
During conference play, CU ranks last in the Pac-12 in 3-pointers allowed (85) and 3-point percentage defense (.407).
Washington State's DaVonte Lacy went 8-for-13 from 3-point range en route to a career-high 34 points on Wednesday. He was the sixth player in the last eight games to sink at least four 3-pointers in a game against the Buffs.
Boyle said a combination of factors has contributed to perimeter defense, but losing 6-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie and 6-foot-7 Tre'Shaun Fletcher to knee injuries on Jan. 12 hasn't helped. Without them, the Buffs have much shorter guards — Askia Booker and Xavier Talton are both 6-2, and Eli Stalzer is 6-3 — closing out on shooters.
In addition, Boyle said, "We don't guard the ball as well as we need to guard the ball. Because we don't guard the ball well, we're getting beat off the dribble, which means guys have to help (on the drive)."
Boyle was pleased with the way Xavier Johnson shut down Washington State guard Que Johnson on Wednesday and also praised the defense of Jaron Hopkins, but as a whole, the Buffs aren't as stingy as Boyle wants them to be.
"We're still looking for that lock-down perimeter defender," he said. "We've got capable guys, but I don't think we have anybody that relishes that role."
CU's perimeter defense is sure to be tested Sunday against C.J. Wilcox and the Washington Huskies. Wilcox went 7-for-12 from 3-point range against the Buffs on Jan. 12.
"All of our perimeter players will be challenged in a big-time way on Sunday," Boyle said.
Boyle said that sophomore forward Josh Scott, "has been nursing some nagging (injuries). His body has taken its toll." Boyle said that's normal for big guys in the Pac-12, though, and said, "Josh is fine." Scott is coming off his worst statistical performance of the season, as he had just one point and one rebound against Washington State. ... Boyle said that Xavier Talton will get his second consecutive start at point guard on Sunday. He also added that he was pleased with how Hopkins played coming off the bench on Wednesday.